The shadows beneath the stairs provided a temporary reprieve from the demands of the street. *Ola blended into the darkness, but I spotted her and paused to greet her and ask her nationality. Caught off guard she admitted she came from Uganda, like so many others we meet on the streets. I knelt down to catch her muffled words, as she answered the litany of questions I have rehearsed so well.
“How long have you been in Thailand?” “One week,” she answered. Ola told me she did not know what job she would be doing. Still in shock, she struggled to do what was required to survive. “I am so sorry,” I told her. “Do you want to go home?” Ola nodded, but said she owed $10,000 US to her boss. “Your boss is a trafficker and criminal! She deceived you and the debt is illegal. You do not have to pay her back.” Her eyes dropped and her voice wavered, as she regretfully told me she had begged the trafficker for a job, calling her repeatedly in hopes of getting something, anything. “My daughter and I had no food for four days. Do you know what it is like to not eat for four days?” Ola admitted the boss probably took advantage of her desperation and stuck her with a debt, higher than most.
Shame blanketed Ola as she confessed, “You don’t understand, I used to be a born again Christian.” I reached out to touch her arm, “Ola, You still are. God has not abandoned you. He doesn’t blame you.” Her eyes brightened for a second before dropping again in embarrassment, “But I did a bad thing. I did an agreement…” “Witchcraft?” I asked her? She nodded and avoided my eyes.
I have heard this story so many times. The traffickers take the women to a witchdoctor to make the contract, which threatens to curse them with mental illness, sickness, or death if they do not pay back the debt. It is a hard obstacle to overcome, hard to assure women of safety when the enemy is not visible or tangible. We have experience in dealing with witchcraft so I spoke to assure her, “We can help you. We know how to pray and break the curses. God is greater than any witchcraft and He loves you so much! This is not his plan for you. Life is hard, but I have a team that can help you through all of this.”
Ola stared at me as I spoke, but she carries a heavy weight of responsibility for a daughter who needs to eat and a debt, which if not paid back threatens to destroy her. There are no easy answers. I asked her if I could pray for her, and she agreed. She kept her eyes open and watched me as I prayed. Tears slipped down her cheeks, and she reached up to brush them away. I gave her a hug, and stood up to leave. “Hold on to hope, Ola. God loves you. He saw you sitting here and he brought me this way tonight to tell you he has not forgotten you. He has heard your cries.” “Thank you!” she said. I logged our number into her phone, and I saw a flicker of hope in her eyes as I said goodbye.
These divine appointments are bittersweet. I walked away leaving Ola sitting in the dark under a heavy burden, but at the same time, I rejoice. The shadow of hope came over Ola, as God reached down to remind her she is not alone, and to offer a way to escape. He will not abandon her to the darkness. I wait for her call, hopeful that I will see God’s love at work again, using my team to free the captives, bind up the broken hearted, and bring home those who have lost their way.